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Monitoring and Characterizing Ice-Cover Behavior Along the Slave River in the Northwest Territories, Canada

Author(s): Karl-Erich Lindenschmidt; Apurba Das; Fan Zhang; Thuan Chu

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Abstract: The winter regime of ice-covered rivers in high northern latitude regions is often a determining factor in the management of water resources, conservation of aquatic ecosystems and preservation of traditional and cultural lifestyles of local peoples. Since ground-based monitoring of river ice regimes in high northern latitudes is expensive and restricted to a few locations due to limited accessibility at most places along rivers, remote sensing techniques are an optimal alternative to field-based monitoring. This study used RADARSAT-2 imagery to monitor river ice covers and their spatio-temporal variation during the freeze-up and ice cover progression period of the Slave River in the Northwest Territories, Canada. Backscatter and texture analysis of the RADARSAT-2 data acquired from the river for three winters from November 2013 to February 2016 allowed four ice-cover classes to be discriminated, including open water, thermal ice, juxtaposed ice, and consolidated ice. In addition to river geomorphological features such as river width and sinuosity, the hydraulic and meteorological conditions during freeze-up and into winter have a significant impact on the Slave River’s ice regime and the spatio-temporal variation in the ice cover characteristics. Our RADARSAT-2 based monitoring algorithm can also be applied to other river systems in high latitude ecosystems to annually monitor river ice formation and variations in the ice cover characteristics during the freeze-up and into the established ice cover period.

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Year: 2016

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